According to the Union Aerospace Corporation’s (UAC) files, a space marine was sent to work for the company on Mars after he assaulted his superior who had ordered his team to shoot upon innocent people. His new job is to get bored to death whilst watching one of the company’s partners conduct inter-dimensional traveling experiments inside its radioactive waste facilities.
All of a sudden, there is a change of pace. The base on the moon of Phobos sends a distress signal, warning that something evil came out of their inter-dimensional gate, and the moon of Deimos just vanished. The space marines are called on Phobos to investigate. As the rest of the marines go inside the hangar, the one that had assaulted his superior stays outside to watch the base’s perimeter.
It’s hard to describe today how playing Doom for the first time way back when it was originally released felt. The game may look primitive compared to modern first-person shooters, and since Doom was one of the first in this genre there was no clear definition of how it should play. However, one thing is that it undeniably put first-person shooters on the gaming map.
More than just being a normal game, Doom presents the player with an unforgettable experience. There was the shooting of course, but there are also strong elements of platforming and puzzle games. Finding coloured key cards to open matching doors, looking for hidden secrets, and pushing switches to modify the landscape were all popular elements taken from other games of its period. Not to mention the level based progression.
The original Doom contained three episodes in its campaign with nine levels each. The first one was given away free as shareware, and users could buy the other two if they enjoyed the first one. The game was later repackaged as Ultimate Doom, containing the original Doom maps and an additional episode. That’s the version that is available on Steam nowadays and is also the version in this review.
The main plot itself is just filler. You are a space marine with an excuse to shoot the invading hordes of demons from hell. The textured, dynamically lit areas were an improvement over the previously released Wolfenstein from the same authors. The game engine provided several industry firsts. For rendering the background graphics, the game allows walls that weren’t necessarily at right-angles to each other, raised platforms, plus open spaces. For the foreground, the enemies themselves and some objects in the scenery are shown as scaled sprites, rotated to always face the player.
On to the hardware! Doom contains one of the most iconic weapons in any game ever. The shotgun you wield as you mow down your opponents is a joy both to watch in action and to hear as it reloads. Sound also plays an important part since you can hear when enemies are nearby, which are scary enough, as well as keeping you on your toes as the sound of your weapons also attracts these same enemies. The soundtrack is also epic, even in its midi format.
One particular shout that will make you jump out of your seat is the scream whenever one of the game’s bosses makes an appearance. These bosses are tough and they sure look the part, but finding a good spot on the map where you can unleash your rockets will dispose of them quickly.
So, is it worth playing Doom today, particularly on a souped-up PC? As I said in my opening sentence it may be hard for anyone who has never played it to really understand and thus get immersed in the game. I mean if someone hands me an FPS game today where the player cannot even look up or down I would probably not give it a second chance. Players who played the first three episodes would welcome the ultimate episode since it provides a challenge and is definitely a great way to kill some time.
The steam version attempts to map the controls to a more modern layout, but even in my case, I had to adjust to it since I remember playing Doom with the original controls. By the way, the steam version’s DOSBox configuration didn’t work well for me, so I had to quit and launch the game directly from my configured version of DOSBox.